Help Us Build a Culture of Consent

I have a vision of a South Africa where women feel safe in their communities. But can you truly imagine it?

I can’t. At Rape Crisis we see the most extreme result of discrimination against women every day. We see a woman after a man has raped her. In the immediate aftermath, or some months later, or after years and years of isolating silence. A silence built on the stigma of being a rape survivor. On the fear of being blamed for wearing a short skirt, or for being out after dark, for being drunk, or for changing her mind in the middle of a sexual encounter. In South Africa these myths are strong enough and the stigma is high enough to stand in the way of this vision.

We believe that the best way to challenge these myths and build a new set of beliefs based on mutual respect for consent is to support communities so that their capacity to address the problem of rape is strengthened. We believe that doing this with teenagers while they are still at school means they are more likely to challenge their own ways of thinking and take that challenge to their peers. Teenagers love to challenge the adult norm.

Monique is a Rape Crisis trained peer educator at Athlone High School. She completed a course that allowed her to support other learners at her school who needed help if they had been raped or sexually assaulted and were too afraid to tell an adult. It also taught her different ways of challenging rape culture among her peers and teaching them new ways of thinking, a new attitude and a new norm. To celebrate Youth Day 16 June 2017 she wrote a blog for us.

“Being a peer educator is a responsibility that I need to fulfil with the utmost seriousness. I am proud to be a peer educator,” she said.

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Obstacle course at the Peer Educators’ camp in Simonstown December 2016. Photograph by Alexa Sedge.

The course kicks off with a well-known exercise called the River of Life. It is designed to help participants tell the story of their lives in order to get to know one another at a deeper level and, in sharing this experience as a group, to develop a bond as a team.

“Fear immediately settled in me. Not because I had to speak in front of 21 strangers but because I had to show others who I really was. I had to show others all the things which made my childhood not so pleasant: all the things that I had locked away and although I wanted to throw away the key, I couldn’t. So there I was, revealing what I had kept inside for years – it was scary. I hated the fact that I had to be vulnerable. However, as each of my peers went up, I could see that we all had a dark past and that sunshine was scarce. What I learnt from that activity was that we need to scratch open our old wounds in order for them to heal properly. I realised that in order for me to help others, I had to help myself first.”

Empowerment starts within. Each facilitator on this course is a trained Rape Crisis volunteer. They go through a similar journey of confronting their fears as they learn to carry the huge responsibility of taking a group of young people on a journey fraught with intense emotions. But if we think of how damaging it is when an entire community believes even just one myth about women, about gender non-conforming people or about rape then we can see how serious it really is to make the attempt to challenge that myth.

“That activity made me realise something else as well: that’s what rape survivors have to go through when telling complete strangers about their traumatic experience, trusting others with what they would perhaps have kept to themselves.”

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Photograph by Alexa Sedge

“Throughout this programme, session by session, I learnt to trust others and I learnt of the stigma related to those being raped and how they are judged. I also learnt many things about HIV and AIDS and the stigma related to those who are positive. I learnt of our rights, our responsibilities and the rights of survivors.”

If you would like to support the journey of a peer educator like Monique please donate here or share this post with someone you think might want to contribute.

“Being part of the Rape Crisis family has been really great for me. We laugh together, cry together, and share a lot of memories. I want to thank the facilitators for doing a super job. Keep inspiring others and moulding new leaders. Although my course is complete, my journey as a peer educator has just begun.”

Please help us promote a culture of safety in our schools or sign up to get updates about this and other projects at Rape Crisis. Because challenging just one myth helps to challenge the culture that gave birth to it; the same culture that gives rise to discrimination and violence against women.

Thank you so much for being part of the process of building a culture of consent.

 

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Making Change as a Rape Crisis Peer Ed

Being a peer educator (peer ed) is so much more than just a label that was given to me because I completed a course. It’s a responsibility that I need to fulfill with the utmost seriousness. Many might feel that being a peer ed is a burden; I see it as a privilege.

I, Monique, am a Rape Crisis Peer Educator and I am proud hereof. When starting this program, I was unaware of the impact it would have on me. I must admit when entering this programme, I was anxious and scared to an extent. Being around a group of ‘strangers’ made me a bit uneasy.

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Obstacle course at the Peer Ed camp in Simonstown. Pic: Alexa Sedge.

I can remember when we were told to do our ‘River of Life’ activity – fear immediately settled in me. Not because I had to speak in front of 21 ‘strangers’ but because I had to show others who I really was. I had to show others all the things which made my childhood not so pleasant: all the things that I had locked away and although I wanted to throw away the key, I couldn’t. So there I was revealing what I had kept inside for years – it was scary. I had hated the fact that I had to be vulnerable. However, as each of my peers went up, I could see that we all had a dark past and that sunshine was scarce. What I learnt from that activity was that we need to scratch open our old wounds in order for them to heal properly. I realised that in order for me to help others, I had to help myself first. That activity made me realise something else as well: that’s what rape survivors have to go through when telling complete strangers about their traumatic experience, trusting others with what they would perhaps have kept to themselves.

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Athlone Peer Eds Pic: Alexa Sedge

Throughout this programme, I learnt something valuable from each session. I learnt to trust others which is something I do not often do. When we did role plays, I learnt of the stigma related to those being raped and how they are judged. I also learnt many things about HIV and AIDS and the stigma related to those who are positive. I learnt of our rights, responsibilities, and the rights of survivors. We were given many worksheets throughout, which we had to read, but personally the worksheets on how to help and assist survivors were the most important. There was a lot of information that was given to us, from contraceptives to our menstrual cycle, but the most important thing I learnt was that rape is a serious offence. I therefore want to be part of the change because many cases go unreported.

Being part of the Rape Crisis family has been really great for me. We laugh together, cry together, and share a lot of memories. I want to thank the facilitators for doing a super job. Keep inspiring others and molding new leaders. Although my course is complete, my journey as a peer ed has just begun.

Monique Booysen 

Monique is one of our Athlone high school Peer Educators. She is an active change-maker, challenging myths and stereotypes and changing attitudes around rape. 

 

Our Peer Education programme is made possible through the generous support of Oxfam Germany and BMZ.

 

 

 

 

 

Bridgetown High is getting some new change-makers

At Bridgetown High School in Athlone, a group of 15 students gather in an empty classroom after school to meet three Rape Crisis facilitators. 

These students have been selected to participate in Rape Crisis’s Peer Education initiative, a programme run in collaboration with high schools identified as at high risk for sexual violence.

For the next seven weeks, they will be covering a wide range of topics in their training course, and the knowledge they gain will equip them to become role models in their schools and communities.

The session today will cover ‘Sex and Gender’, two concepts that most students had never thought about as separate before. 

The group starts with an icebreaker, a lively dance led by Princess that gets the whole group moving and singing.

Next, the facilitators begin a group discussion. “I’ve never thought about the difference between sex and gender before” says Tricily, “I’m learning lots of new things that I want to share with my friends.”

Although shy at first (there is a collective giggle when the facilitator first says ‘penis’), the learners are soon intent on the exercise in front of them, which asks them to decide whether a statement is related to sex or gender. They are deep in discussion until the very last moment.

In coming weeks, the course will begin to address other complex topics like drug abuse, Rape Trauma Syndrome and the legal processes relating to rape. They will also learn new skills like team work, public speaking and how to organise a campaign. 

The session ends with some feedback from the students. “It’s been interesting and enjoyable” says Kgotso, “I’m excited to continue with the lessons.”

Once they graduate, the new Peer Educators will be able to help oppose rape culture through challenging the myths and stigma often associated with sexual violence; raise awareness amongst their peers; and provide support and signposting to those who have experienced it.

We thank Oxfam Australia and the MATCH International Women’s Fund for funding this important work.

Author: Emily Whiteside

Photographs: Brittany Broderick

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Peer Educator Graduation: Challenging Social Norms to Prevent Sexual Violence

To effectively combat sexual violence, it is not enough to treat its symptoms: we must also work to prevent it by addressing root causes.

This is the drive behind the Rape Crisis Birds and Bees Peer Educator initiative, run in collaboration with schools that have been identified as at high risk for sexual violence. Students who enter the programme graduate aware of the myths and social norms that enable sexual violence; able to support survivors and refer them to Rape Crisis services; and committed to raising awareness amongst their peers.

The most recent Peer Educator graduation ceremony, at Joe Slovo Engineering High School in Khayelitsha, was a proud moment for all the learners, educators and Rape Crisis staff involved.

The most recent Peer Educator graduation ceremony, at Joe Slovo Engineering High School in Khayelitsha, was a proud moment for all the learners, educators and Rape Crisis staff involved.

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Peer Educators learn to challenge the stigma and misconceptions around rape through this programme, and go on to become leaders and role models within not only their schools, but their communities.

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Thandile, who spoke on behalf of the class during the ceremony, says he will spread the Rape Crisis message all over the school. “It was a good experience that gave me many ideas. I can make sure someone doesn’t feel lonely, I can make them feel loved and happy.”

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“Often learners who join this programme reveal that they are rape survivors themselves and never told anyone as they feared judgement or labeling. They have now gained confidence as they now know their right and how to claim them” says Rape Crisis Training and Development Co-ordinator Kholeka Booi

 

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“This Rape Crisis programme is so valuable,” reflected Ms Mbanga, an educator at Joe Slovo, “So many people have been raped but don’t know what to do. If Rape Crisis keeps training young learners, they can help the whole community”.

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Happily clutching her certificate and black Peer Educator t-shirt, Amanda says she enjoyed the whole process. “It was fun, and I can use all the information I learned to help other people. If I see someone do something wrong, I can tell them that it’s wrong and stop them”.

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“They have been so dedicated and committed” Ms Mbanga can attest, “and I have seen a great change in each of them. They have gained skills, maturity and a spirit of teamwork.”

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This new generation of Peer Educators will be able to open a dialogue with their friends, classmates and families that represents a more informed approach to a difficult subject.

The Rape Crisis Birds and Bees project is supported by the MATCH International Women’s Fund and Oxfam Australia

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